Kate Heppell doesn’t do things by halves. Except, that is, for her living situation. For the co-founder of cult homewares label Kip&Co, known for its eclectic textures and colours, the arrival of her third son saw the family home in Point Lonsdale pushed to capacity. But when they realised it wasn’t likely that they’d be able to upsize in the same area, the family decided to think twice. Literally...
A charming, shingle-wrapped beach house in Sorrento was the solution. The family divides their time between the two homes, giving them the space they craved without the need to sacrifice location. “Both houses are relatively humble in the flesh”, Kate told us, “but Point Lonsdale is busting at the seams with toys, instruments, pets, a pizza oven, hot tub, and sport equipment (most tucked away for these photos), while Sorrento is kept super clean and clear. This contrast works perfectly and it means that when we arrive in Sorrento, life is easy and uncluttered and we really connect to the beach and nature and the outdoors there.” Their design ethos for Sorrento was ‘Nordic beach house vibes, with a decent dose of colour’. And if you know anything about Kip&Co, you’ll know that colour is king.
Across both homes, Heppell’s design signature rings out. From the shimmering oceanic tiles in their showstopper beach house bathroom, to the citrus sherbert paint colours singing from the bedroom walls in Point Lonsdale, the joyful, irreverent Kip&Co flavour is right at home. But seamless as the combinations may look, the reality is (as always) a little more challenging. “I absolutely love my work”, says Kate, “but I love my kids more…hands down the hardest bit is fulfilling my work desires and commitments, while never missing a thing with my kids and husband. Sounds easy? Not always! But definitely the way I like it.”
Step into this gloriously vibrant world with us…
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You're a mum to three boys - what's your parenting philosophy?
My current parenting philosophy is pretty loosely around just letting the kids be kids. Mine are still super young so as long as they are good humans, kind and caring to others and their planet, I am just here for cuddles and good times. We also (even while they are small and may not remember the trips exactly) are about building a cellular memory (at the very least) of endless family love and adventures both in our backyard and abroad. We think this knowledge of love and care and kindness will set them up for being the kind of mindful and empathetic people that we hope they will always be.
You started Kip & Co with your sister and bestie, but prior to that you'd run another business with your sister. Were there any reservations about working together?
I think Hayley and I swore after business #1 that we wouldn’t have another business together but when the next one came round she was an obvious go-to. We really have a great sister energy that at times is a bit full on and we can definitely argue, but then we are fine and laughing two minutes later and onto the next thing. We are sisters but also best friends and trust and care for each other intrinsically – so that’s a good foundation for anything I think. Especially business.
Your home is incredibly colourful and vivid. Have you always loved colour?
Yes, colour has been a go-to for me for life. I am always attracted to colour over white and my wardrobe and home are certainly evidence of this.
Rather than upsize your home to accommodate your growing family, you decided to stay put and invest in a beach house as well. Are you glad you made that call?
We have loved this decision for us. Both houses are relatively humble in the flesh but Point Lonsdale is busting at the seams with toys, instruments, pets, a pizza oven, hot tub, and sport equipment (most tucked away for these photos), while Sorrento is kept super clean and clear. This contrast works perfectly and it means that when we arrive in Sorrento, life is easy and uncluttered and we really connect to the beach and nature and the outdoors there. Our favourite thing to do there is cook on the outdoor fire, pitch a tent in the backyard, laze in the garden and skate around the back streets.
You approached your beach house design with the phrase 'Nordic beach house vibes, with a decent dose of colour’ in mind. How did the design process change that vision?
It doesn’t sound it but it was actually pretty organic how we pulled the design of Sorrento together. The starting point was the shingles though which I think we decided on, on the day we purchased the house in 2017. From there I had found these awesome cement tiles and these two details are really the crux of the design. Then there is the paint colours and this is always really fun for me and really just what my heart is vibeing at that time, nothing to do with themes or trends. I wanted there to be a lot of colour but all soft pastels. I let Zig, my eldest, choose the kids bedroom colour and when he chose ultramarine blue I thought “stuff it, why not”. Paint can always be easily painted over later if we hate it. It definitely adds a surprising twist to that house though.
What do your kids love the most about your home in Point Lonsdale?
Definitely the outdoor areas. The garden has lots of action stations – a cedar hot tub, the chickens, trampoline, veggie patches, the treehouse, there is a big undercover couch, and there is a pizza oven – so fun is pretty endless in our garden and really is where we are found a lot of the time. They also all absolutely love their bedrooms. I feel strongly about them having these sanctuaries that are their special spots to keep and decorate how they like. I want their rooms to not only feel safe and warm, but also inspire and excite them every day. I have definitely chosen a lot of the art and details of their bedrooms but I will always consult or let them choose where I can (particularly Zig).
I notice lots of gorgeous archways in your home - are the kids rooms door-free?
Zig’s room is door free but we didn’t really do this intentionally. A door is not off the cards one day, but I think we all (Zig included) love the open set up. It makes his room a really cool place for all three kids to hang out in and play. He doesn’t seem to get annoyed with that, but we recently got him two lockers that he has the key to and can lock away what he likes. He chose these, built them, covered them in stickers, and loves them so much! It was a fun and easy way to give him a bit of privacy in what is a very exposed bedroom.
You have a beautiful garden. Is that space essential with three boys?
Absolutely! We are all about getting outside and staying away from tech and TV’s and while we are out and on the beach a lot, our garden is the way to do this without leaving the house. All three kids would choose to be barefoot and outside, rather than in, any day or the week, and any hour of the day, so making our garden and outdoor spaces fun and interesting has been a big effort by us.
As a designer, do you find yourself making changes to the home all the time? Is it ever 'done’?
Good question! I talk a lot about repainting the whole interior of our house new colours but then the effort, with three kids around who are still prone to drawing on walls, makes me postpone another 6 months, then another and then another. And then as for other easier details the main thing that I like to change around is bedding. It is such an easy change that makes a big difference to a room. And art I like to really invest in, so I can’t afford to change a lot. Having said this we love our house so much and we can’t imagine moving in the near future, so I love doing things that simply make it more liveable and enjoyable. Examples of this are adding joinery or the hot tub or a sky light to the bathroom. I haven’t done things like this in ages but I am on a bit of a roll, and it is all toward making this house most perfect for our family.
How do you incorporate so many colours and patterns so seamlessly together - both in your home and at Kip & Co?
I guess the tip on this is just to build the layers and if something you add doesn’t work, move it. But I am about mix and match, so everything kind of works to my eye.
What's been the most challenging part of motherhood?
For me I’d say balancing work and the kids. I absolutely love my work (seriously!!! love it!) but I love my kids more and my husband and I made the decision to just have a babysitter two days a week and manage the rest ourselves while the guys are young. This has been a big personal choice of ours, and weeks when work is coming out my ears, or the kids are on school holidays and want endless fun, this balance is really bloody hard and results in a lot of late nights working. And I love the work trips but sometimes I just need to bow out and be cool with that. So hands down the hardest bit is fulfilling my work desires and commitments, while never missing a thing with my kids and husband. Sounds easy? Not always! But definitely the way I like it.